United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. NO. 6)
SOROKIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Linda Merrick alleges violations of the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et
seq., along with a plethora of state law claims arising
out of her employment termination by Defendants Franey
Medical Lab, Inc. (FMLI) and Kathleen Franey, her former
supervisor. Doc. No. 15. Plaintiff levels additional
state law claims against Defendant Mark Gent, FMLI’s
business manager. Id. In response, Defendants
collectively move to dismiss the case in its entirety. Doc.
Nos. 6, 20. For the following reasons, Defendants’
motion to dismiss is ALLOWED with respect to
Plaintiff’s ADEA claims (Counts V and X).
Plaintiff’s remaining state law claims are REMANDED to
Barnstable Superior Court for further proceedings.
Court recounts the relevant facts as they are alleged in
Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint. Doc. No. 15.
1987, Plaintiff began her employment relationship with FMLI,
a laboratory services firm which provides substance abuse
testing and monitoring for area health care providers.
Id. at 1. Initially hired as a lab technician,
Plaintiff remained in the employ of FMLI until 2000, when the
company was sold to another business. Id. When FMLI
recommenced its own lab services in 2005, Plaintiff continued
in her original capacity. Id. In 2009, she was
promoted to Lab Manager and was granted responsibilities like
“supervising employees and overseeing lab
testing.” Id. at 2.
Manager, Plaintiff was directly supervised by Defendant
Franey, who “was tasked with running the day-to-day
operation of the company.” Id. at 2. During
this period, Defendant Franey “frequently praised
Plaintiff for her dedication and strong work ethic.”
Id. Plaintiff’s performance evaluations,
including her most recent evaluation in 2013, indicated that
she had “met or exceeded expectations.” By 2018,
Plaintiff was “one of the oldest and highest paid
employees of FMLI.” Id. at 3.
series of events that gave rise to this suit began in 2017.
First, Plaintiff alleges that an employee who objected to
FMLI’s newly instituted work share program-an objection
Plaintiff had defended-was terminated by Defendant Franey,
who simultaneously “warned Plaintiff that similar
action could be taken against her.” Id. at 2.
Next, Plaintiff learned of, and subsequently reported, an
alleged incident of sexual harassment involving Defendant
Gent’s wife, Jennifer. Id. The alleged victim
was terminated and Plaintiff “was systematically phased
out of management decisions.” Id. Sometime
thereafter, Defendant Gent began to “demean [Plaintiff]
in front of co-workers, often refer[ring] to her as
irrelevant.” Id. On one occasion, Defendant
Gent approached Plaintiff about a workplace dispute,
“caus[ing] the Plaintiff to be placed in fear for her
safety.” Id. at 3. A few days after notifying
FMLI’s HR director that “she would be forced to
file a report with the police” if the incident with
Defendant Gent went unaddressed, Plaintiff was terminated by
Defendant Franey. Id. at 3–4. At the time of
her termination, Plaintiff was over the age of 40; FMLI
subsequently “replaced her with a younger
employee.” Id. at 4.
General Pleading Standard
survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a
complaint “must provide fair notice to the defendants
and state a facially plausible legal claim.”
Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12
(1st Cir. 2011). “The plausibility standard is not akin
to a ‘probability requirement, ’ but it asks for
more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). While Rule 12(b)(6)’s demands
are modest, it “is not entirely a toothless
tiger.” Dartmouth Rev. v. Dartmouth Coll., 889
F.2d 13, 16 (1st Cir. 1989) (noting that the “threshold
for stating a claim may be low, but it is real.”).
“The pleader must show an entitlement to relief by
including in the complaint enough factual material to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level if the facts
alleged are accepted as true.” Faculty, Alumni,
& Students Opposed to Racial Preferences v. Harvard Law
Review Ass’n, No. CV 18-12105-LTS, 2019 WL
3754023, at *4 (D. Mass. Aug. 8, 2019) (quoting
Ocasio-Hernandez, 640 F.3d at 12) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
ADEA Pleading Standard
ADEA “makes it unlawful for an employer to take adverse
action against an employee because of his or her age.”
Connolly v. Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc., 355
F.Supp.3d 9, 15 (D. Mass. 2018); 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1).
To establish a prima facie case of age
discrimination under the ADEA, a plaintiff must show:
(1) [she is] a member of a protected class; (2) [she is]
qualified for [her] job; (3) [she has] suffer[ed] an adverse
employment action at the hands of [her] employer; and (4)
[there is] some evidence of a causal connection between [her]
membership in a protected class and the adverse employment
Garmon v. Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp., 844 F.3d
307, 313 (1st Cir. 2016) (quoting Bhatti v. Trs. of Bos.
Univ., 659 F.3d 64, 70 (1st Cir. 2011)). The Supreme
Court has held that the plaintiff need not plead facts
sufficient to establish “a prima facie
case… in order to survive a motion to dismiss.”
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 511
(2002). However, the plaintiff still “must plead enough
facts to make entitlement to relief plausible.”
Higgins v. State St. Corp., 323 F.Supp.3d 203, 206
(D. Mass. 2018); Rodriguez-Reyes v.
Molina-Rodriguez, 711 F.3d 49, 54 (1st Cir. 2013)
(noting that the elements of the prima facie case
are not irrelevant to a plausibility determination, but
rather constitute “part of the background against which
a plausibility determination should be made”).
“Put simply, the ...